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Payne v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

February 17, 2017

CYNTHIA FRANCES PAYNE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cynthia Payne has appealed the Acting Commissioner's denial of supplemental security income. For the reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the Acting Commissioner.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This was denied, both initially and upon reconsideration. Thereafter, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Henry Kramzyk conducted a hearing at which both a vocational expert and Plaintiff testified. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at this hearing.

         The ALJ ultimately denied Plaintiff's claim and issued a written opinion to that effect. The Appeals Council subsequently declined to review the ALJ's decision, rendering it final agency action. See 5 U.S.C. § 704; 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of this denial.

         B. Standard of Review

          This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). The Court must ensure that the ALJ has built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008).

         C. Disability Standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff's alleges a solitary error in the ALJ's decision: he failed to give proper weight to the opinion of Dr. Luella Bangura. (Pl.'s Br. at 17-24.) In his decision, the ALJ gave Dr. Bangura's opinion “no weight” because it was inconsistent with the findings of record as well as Dr. Bangura's own findings regarding Plaintiff's capabilities. (R. at 26.) Plaintiff asserts Dr.

         Bangura's opinion, as the only opinion from an examining source, should have been given the most weight of all medical opinions in the record. (Pl.'s Br. at 19.) Alternatively, and on the basis of the same reasoning, Plaintiff contends Dr. ...


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